British Computer Society course providers

Discussion in 'IT and Computer-Related Degrees' started by aircon, Dec 7, 2008.

  1. aircon

    aircon New Member

    I'm interested in taking the BCS Professional Examinations but I'm a bit apprehensive about joining their accredited course providers in England, listed here.

    Are they recommended? Has anyone taken training courses with them?
  2. sentinel

    sentinel New Member

    If the BCS recommends these schools you should be fine. As a professional organization I highly doubt the British Computer Society would be affiliated with mills or disreputable schools.
  3. aircon

    aircon New Member

    Did you take their professional examinations? If so, did you do it at an institution or by self-study?
  4. georgehkchua

    georgehkchua New Member

    I completed the BCS Professional Graduate Diploma Examination in 2005

    Hi aircon,

    I completed the BCS Professional Graduate Diploma in Information Technology Examination in 2005 through self-study. You can ask me any question about the BCS Pg Dip IT program.
  5. aircon

    aircon New Member

    That's nice of you, George.

    I initially thought of self-studying for the Examinations, but I'm not very self-motivated and I'm worried that won't help me.
    However, I do have a passion and a lot of curiosity for everything practical related to IT, so I might give it a try depending on how I have to study.

    Here are my basic questions:

    Is most of the Certificate in IT program focused on theory?
    About the books, do I have to buy what they list, or can i get some of my own, or read related info on the net?
    Also, they run exams twice a year (April and October). If I sit for the Cert in IT exams in april and I pass it, can I sit for the Diploma in IT exams in October of the same year?


  6. georgehkchua

    georgehkchua New Member

    Hi aircon,

    Here's my take on your questions:

    1) "Is most of the Certificate in IT program focused on theory?"

    In general, all of the BCS modules, at all levels, test a mix of theory and practical application; but in the balance, I would say that mastering the theory is more important. If you know your theory cold but have never applied it in a real-life project before, you can still "wing it" on the applications questions by imagining how the concept should be applied. On the other hand, if you are the type that can build a 1000-node Windows domain but don't have a clue about what "sliding window protocols" are, you will fail the exam.

    To pass the exam, you can't just be "acquainted" with the material, you have to know it very well. The time constraints on the exam are such that you won't have time to bite your pencil and scratch your head to recall facts. You have to lay out the facts on the word "go" and still argue your case convincing and critically. Not for nothing is this regarded as one of the toughest IT exams in the world; so make sure you clock at least 120 hours of study per module before attempting it.

    The level of difficulty of the exams rises fairly quickly as you proceed from the Cert to the Dip to the PG Dip. But within each level, the level of difficulty of the different modules can be quite uneven. For example, at the Dip level, I found Database Systems to be quite manageable but Computer Networks to be friggin difficult - even though I'm more familiar with networking compared to databases.

    2) "About the books, do I have to buy what they list, or can i get some of my own, or read related info on the net?"

    No, you don't have to buy their recommended texts. I seldom use their recommended texts for the following reasons:
    a) They are often hard-to-get UK imprints. By the time the text arrives in my mail, the exams will be round the corner.
    b) The recommended text are far inferior to other alternatives. For example, for Computer Networks, BCS recommends Halsall, Stallings and/or Tanenbaum. Halsall and Stallings are cryptic. Tanenbaum is too long-winded. And if you try to study all 3, you will go insane. Instead, I find Douglas Comer's text to be far superior.

    Here's what I do to prepare for the exam. I study the syllabus and past exam papers in detail, noting the scope of the module. I then pick the most comprehensive and student friendly text I can get a hold of in the bookstore and study that. I fill out any gaps in the material by using stuff downloaded from the Internet. This works perfect for me.

    3) "Also, they run exams twice a year (April and October). If I sit for the Cert in IT exams in april and I pass it, can I sit for the Diploma in IT exams in October of the same year?"

    When I was a BCS candidate, there was no restriction onwhich paper you may attempt. You may if you wish to, start by attempting papers in the PG Dip level and work your way backwards to the Cert although that would be weired. BCS wouldn't stop you. But, in order to graduate from a specific level, you need to pass all the exams at that level and all preceding levels.

    Sitting for a Cert module in April and a Dip module in Oct poses no problems at all.

    Feel free to ask me more if you wish.
  7. aircon

    aircon New Member

    Thanks so much George. I think that pretty much covers the questions I have so far. I might have a few more as I progress through the program.

    Thanks again!
  8. shirmal

    shirmal New Member

    hi georgehkchua,

    I'm also planing to do the BCS program, I'll have start from the certificate level as I'm not eligible to get excemptions as what I have learned so far is much about networking. There are three subjects me to do in the certificate level as shown in the website.

    1) Information Systems
    2) Software Development
    3) Computer & Network Technology

    But I'm unable to go for the classes because I'm getting ready for my CCNP final exam. I can get the somewhat good class note books from one of my friend who did BCS cert level in 2004 Oct. After 2004 oct exam, has any syllabus updating happened ? Do you believe that same type of guestions in tha past papers are repeating ? And also can you recommend some books for the cert level?


  9. georgehkchua

    georgehkchua New Member

    Hi Shirmal,

    It is true that BCS generally recognizes only academic qualifications (as opposed to professional certifications) for the purposes of exemptions. But take heart. The practical knowledge gained in your MCSE,MCTS,CCNA and CCNP certifications will stand you in good stead to pass networking related papers.

    I'm glad to hear that you are studying for the CCNP certification. My advice however is not to mix your CCNP and BCS studies. You need to focus your time and energy on the BCS exams as they are not easy. So finish your CCNP before commencing with your BCS exam prep.

    The 2004 class notes you get from your friend will perhaps not serve you well as they are more than 4 years old. The BCS exam syllabus is updated every year, although the changes in content is subtle. Furthermore, class notes are highly summarized and may not cover enough of the scope of the syllabus.

    At the certificate level, textbook knowledge is more important than real world experience. And the best textbooks to use are the recommended texts listed in the official BCS syllabus guide. The examiners expect you to know the material in the reading list cold. In the exam, you'd be expected to recall a lot of facts, critically appraise them, and write coherently about them; all under intense time pressure. So you have to know the material in your textbooks very well.

    The BCS examiners are hardworking people so you won't find alot of repeated questions from year to year. The best way to pass the exam is to really study the recommended texts and practice taking the past exam papers. Don't try to "spot questions" and memorize "model answers" for the spotted questions. This will not work.

    I hope the above answers your questions. Feel free to ask me more.


  10. pennieb

    pennieb New Member


    I too am thinking of doing BCS part time in the UK. I've had a look at the course providers and they are all small with poorly maintained websites - not a good recommendation. You say you did self study, and the texts you used were based on past papers? I would like to purchase study materials and was hoping I could find some on the net but no joy. The reading lists supplied by BCS are overlong and I would wish to read the least amount possible. I suppose you have no further recommendations beyond studying past papers and the syllabus and finding a similar book in the shops? I assume you recommend more academic bookshops?

    Many Thanks,

  11. georgehkchua

    georgehkchua New Member

    Hi Pennie,

    My apologies for the late reply.

    My earlier recommendations were specifically designed to help you read the least amount of material you need to pass the BCS exams. Only by familiarizing yourself with the syllabus and past exam papers can you know which parts of the text are relevant to the exam and which parts are not. There is no other way around that.

    Since you are in the UK, you should be able to procure the recommended texts easily. So don't hunt around for alternative texts. My suggestion to use alternative texts was aimed at candidates outside the UK - such as myself - who do not have ready access to UK imprints. And yes, you should procure the recommended texts at academic bookstores.

    You are correct in saying that the reading list supplied by the BCS is overly long. And quite frankly, you can go insane and fail your exams if you do indeed try to read all of them. So what you need to do is this: for each exam that you are taking, identify one main text that covers the bulk of the syllabus. This is usually - but not always - the first text listed under the "Primary Texts" header in the reading list. (Here again is the reason why you need to know the syllabus and past exam papers). Then study this text only and know it cold.

    After you've mastered the main text, try out the past papers to identify gaps in your knowledge. Fill out any gaps in your knowledge with searches on the Web. Never use the Web as your primary source of exam prep material. I followed this method of study and I passed every BCS exam paper at the first attempt.
  12. dontexe

    dontexe New Member

    Hi George,

    How can you be of help. I'll be writing the certificate stage in october. I need your advice on how to study, list of materials that i can use as i am based outside of uk. I currently have MIS by effy oz, is the book good enough ? Kindly provide me with your email address so that I can contact you directly. My email address is [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.
  13. raristud

    raristud Member

    Since this is a public forum, please be careful in giving out contact information such as mailing address, phone numbers..ext that may result in the person trying to get money from you. There are a lot of e-mail scams out there.
  14. AJKW

    AJKW New Member

    BCS Recommended Texts

    Hi George,

    I am planning to sit for the BCS in Sept' 2010. My subjects are 2 Diploma + 2 PGD, as follows.

    *Dip - Professional Issues & IT Project Management

    *PG Dip - MIS & Computer Services Management.

    I would appreciate if you could advise me on the most suitable texts for the above 4 subjects. ( I am aware that the recommended texts are not always the best..!)

    Thanking you & Look forward to your valued advise.

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